The Commonwealth has announced that Australia will order an additional two Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime ISR and response aircraft for the RAAF.
The two aircraft will add to the 12 P-8As already in service with the RAAF’s 11SQN at Edinburgh in Adelaide. The aircraft are two of the three options the RAAF was holding and which were required to be firmed up by the end of 2020. As long-lead production of the P-8A will soon begin to wind down, it is possible the final option will lapse.
The P-8A was ordered by the RAAF in 2014 under the Project Air 7000 Phase 2B manned maritime patrol aircraft requirement to replace the Lockheed AP-3C Orion in RAAF service, with an initial order for eight aircraft and four options. Australia had previously entered into a cooperative development program with the US Navy on the P-8A, allowing it to define requirements for the aircraft during development.
An additional four P-8As were ordered for the RAAF in 2016, while the three options were retained. The RAAF’s first P-8A made its maiden flight in May 2016 and, after being fitted with its mission systems, was handed over in Seattle in September 2016 before ferrying to Australia that November.
In RAAF and US Navy service, the P-8A will work closely with the unmanned Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high altitude long endurance maritime ISR system for which Australia has a requirement of up to seven air vehicles.
“Together, the Poseidon and the Triton will provide Australia with one of the most advanced maritime patrol and response capabilities in the world,” Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds said in a December 30 statement. “The Poseidon is a proven capability that will conduct tasks including anti-submarine warfare, maritime and overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and support to search and rescue missions.
“These additional aircraft will enhance Air Force’s flexibility to support multiple operations and will play an important role in ensuring Australia’s maritime region is secure for generations to come,” she added.
The RAAF’s P-8A achieved an initial operational capability (IOC) in March 2018 and was followed by the commissioning of a comprehensive pilot and maintenance training facility at Edinburgh. The RAAF’s 12th P-8A was delivered in December 2019.